Work, as we know it, is changing. When the COVID pandemic hit the world in 2020, most people thought, “oh, another challenge for the world’s healthcare systems.” But beyond healthcare, the world of work has experienced a paradigm shift thanks to the pandemic. All around the world, employers, employees, the self-employed, and the unemployed alike are trying to figure out the future of work. TechCabal’s just concluded live event focused on this increasingly important discussion with the following key speakers: Temitayo Samson Grace, Head of Talent, Big Cabal Media (BCM); Femi Alonge, Program Director, Qala, and Co-founder CcHUB; and Lara Aromire, Director of People, CcHUB.
“There had always been reasons for the world of work to change, for people to take a more optimised approach to work, but somehow, the world didn’t pay attention to those reasons. It took the pandemic to force a change, and now, everyone’s taking the change more seriously,” Grace said as the webinar kicked off.
Before the pandemic, remote work was a fancy term in this part of the world that amused employers should an employee dare insist on it. The concept of organisational policies to ensure optimal mental health for staff was not a discussion worthy of most c-suite board meetings. Africans looked to African countries in their job search, and talks of working abroad only came after plans of going abroad.
These work experiences now sound like history classes in less than two years because of how much life has changed since the pandemic. Remote work is becoming the new normal, with 42% of Africans working remotely at least once a week. Mental health is also climbing the priority scale of many business owners and executives. African talents are not left out of the paradigm shift. They are aggressively and non-apologetically competing for jobs in global markets from the comfort of their homes, with 36% of African developers confirmed to be working for startups headquartered outside the continent.
My favourite remix of the famous quote by Spiderman’s uncle is: “with great change comes great responsibility.” Often, change comes with the need for people to step up to a ‘higher calling,’ to do more and be more. This certainly applies to the world of work.
“Employers need to understand that they don’t need too many meetings to be effective, especially in this new era. They must find smart ways to make decisions that are in the company’s interest. Also, founders ought to effect policy and culture changes that prioritise flexibility and productivity for their staff. This is not an easy job because it requires creativity and innovation from the HR folks. But it’s great for the business in the long run,” Alonge said, highlighting the responsibilities facing employers in Africa today.
Aromire, a long-standing HR personnel who has helped built HR departments in multiple companies, couldn’t agree more. Corroborating Alonge’s suggestions, Aromire emphasised the point of employee training. She opined that employees needed to be trained and polished in their roles. This, according to her, is to be followed with KPI-led employee management.
Heavy is the head that wears the leadership crown, but the future of work goes beyond employers’ policies and remote work flexibility. As the job market becomes more employee-led, employees, too, have a big role to play in shaping the narrative about Africa’s future workforce. For BCM’s Head of Talent, Grace, employees should also commit to their company’s goals and be willing to exercise flexibility.
“One on hand, employees in this age need to be tech-savvy and comfortable with digital tools. The world is not going back anymore and we must all adjust to the new normal. On another hand, employees must understand that they are being added to the business to add value, and this might require them to go out of their way to deduce solutions to business problems. They shouldn’t be narrow-minded or angry when asked to function in a different capacity. It’s an opportunity to grow,” she said.
Alonge—who advocates for employees to see themselves as value creators and not job seekers—added that employees ought to be proactive with their responsibilities. According to him, value creators are there to add value to the business, and if they understand this, they wouldn’t need to beg to be employed “Why will you be begging an employer for a job like they were doing you a favour?” he asked rhetorically.
“As a value creator,” he continued, “you need to see yourself in the light of your competencies, just like an HR personnel would. Identify your core and specialised skills and develop them by learning continously. Learning is constant. It is not limited to the walls of a university. Besides, many of the things taught in schools these days are fairly outdated.”
Other salient points made in the conversation include:
- An organisation is better off when its employees see themselves as part of the company’s vision.
- Organisations ought to have healthy and dependable support systems for employees to discuss issues and share their thoughts and opinions.
- Employee performance feedback should be ramped up and made faster. For example, reviews can be fortnightly rather than the canonical 6-months.
- Employers need to ease new employees into their system with a rich onboarding process that prepares them to hit the ground running.
- Firms need to emphasize company culture and drive healthy relationships across-board.
- For employees, complaining about an extra assignment at work is not the way to go. That experience could ultimately reveal careers to pivot to in the future.
By hosting an event like this, TechCabal is contributing to the variegated conversations around Africa’s future of work. This is especially important in an era characterised by changing behaviours towards work. Africa has the fastest-growing labour force globally, with over 32,000 daily entrants into the labour market. Invariably, the continent has the potential to tell the narrative of work on a global level. It is then up to us: employers, employees, and media, to create a future of work that works for us all.